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Almirola on Coca-Cola pole

It's been awhile, but Richard Petty has bragging rights once again in Charlotte.

Aric Almirola took the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 192.940 mph Thursday night and teammate Marcus Ambrose finished second at 191.598, giving Petty a front-row sweep at Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR's longest race.

"Hey ya'll," Petty said to reporters as he walked into a news conference and took a spot behind the table in the front of the interview room. "Haven't sat up here in a while."

Petty won a Sprint Cup-record 123 poles during his career.

But his No. 43 car hasn't sat on the pole at the Coca-Cola 600 in 46 years.

"This really makes me feel good because our guys have been working hard for a long time and they finally got a little recognition," Petty said. "It shows what these guys have been doing is right. Tonight the circumstances were right. It's a confidence builder for us, even though it's just qualifying. We have bragging rights for a couple of days here anyway, so that makes all of us feel good."

Almirola, gearing up for his first series race at Charlotte, got his first pole by taking advantage of cooler track conditions late in qualifying.

Jimmie Johnson, who won last week's All-Star race, qualified third, followed by Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer.

Kurt Busch will start at the back of the field after wrecking in qualifying.

Danica Patrick qualified 43rd for her first Coca-Cola 600.

Almirola said he was "honored" to give Petty Motorsports the pole in Charlotte in a race Petty considers the second-biggest on the NASCAR circuit behind only the Daytona 500.

"It's been a huge honor for me from Day One to come to this organization," he said.


Weldon's win honored

INDIANAPOLIS -- Susie Wheldon somberly celebrated her late husband's Indianapolis 500 victory Thursday.

Seven months after Dan Wheldon was killed in a horrific crash at Las Vegas, Susie and their two children came to Indianapolis to accept the champion's ring.

"He loved Indianapolis Motor Speedway so much," she said softly. "I'm proud to be here with our two children, Sebastian and Oliver, and to represent him as a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500."

Wheldon didn't take questions during the brief ceremony, but did thank racing fans for showing love and support.

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